This summer, all decked out in pink with my friends, I excitedly made my way to see Barbie. I entered the dark movie theater and was immediately hit with the aroma of buttery popcorn and an air of excitement as women from all over my small Kansas town filled the movie theater to the point of its limit.
Sitting in a sea of pink, I unexpectedly grappled with a hilarious, yet heartbreaking depiction of how far we are from an equal society for women. As the movie theater started to empty out I sat in my seat looking at the blank screen and laughed because if I didn’t, I’d cry.
Today, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26 thanks to Congresswoman Bella Abzug, a Democrat from New York, who pushed a bill through Congress in 1973 to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment that finally gave most women the right to vote in 1920.
We’re in good company. The national holiday happens to also fall on “National Spark the World Day,” a day created to appreciate the people who go the extra mile to inspire others and spark greatness —sounds like women to me.
In a bittersweet way, today not only reminds us of how far women’s rights have come, but also how much work remains to be done. We’re a long way from completely shattering the glass ceiling.
As pink-coded as the world may seem, we’ve taken several steps back on our nation’s foundational ideal that all people are created equal.
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, an 18-year-old in Nebraska who used abortion pills to end a pregnancy was sentenced to ninety days in jail. White women still make 82 cents to every dollar a man makes — and that pay gap grows even more for Black women, Latinas, and Indigenous and Asian women. And in this day in age, I can’t believe I’m still reading Reddit posts asking “AITA for telling my wife she can’t go outside?” News flash. Yes Rick, if you have to ask, yes you are.
Not to mention women still have to deal with debates on career progression, sexual harassment in the workplace, underrepresentation — the list goes on. True gender equality and what it looks like still hangs in the balance.
So what would it take to actually reach gender equality? Well, I’m glad you asked. It doesn’t have to mean our Supreme Court looks like the current line-up for a Miss America contest — but it should mean our Supreme Court doesn’t look like a bunch of greedy old people trying to take away my right to healthcare.
We demand reproductive rights — and I’m not only talking about abortion. I’m talking about proper and accessible medical care for all women so we can get the preventative care we need. Proper care means cancer screens, fertility treatments, or birth control if babies are not on the agenda yet, or ever. Personally, I’m on the puppies are the new baby bandwagon.
It also means fair compensation for equal work, or as we gen-z folk like to say, “B**** better have my money.”
We need to pass policies that allow women to feel adequately supported in the workplace, at home, and in the streets. We should celebrate women of color, our contributions, and our monumental impact on society.
Women’s history has a long tradition of ignoring the contributions of minority women. Women of color were essential to the progress and success of the suffrage movement and yet the 19th Amendment did not allow all women of color to vote.
To this day women and especially women of color — a fast-growing powerful voting bloc — face a series of voter suppression tactics from strict voter ID laws to discriminatory voter purges, limitations on voting hours, and reductions in voting locations.
Overall, it’s crucial to listen and champion the women in our lives to speak up and be heard.
It’s a remarkable experience to be a woman and a woman of color in a world designed to challenge your every move. Your very existence is resistance. As every woman out there knows, you live constricted by a set of expectations. You have to grow up quickly and leave the Barbies behind to venture on to a chapter of your life that instills in you the societal expectations of what it means to be a woman. You must be presentable. You must be polite. You must be calm. You must be strong. You must be silent.
As I listen to the melancholy track “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish and reminisce on the beauty of girlhood, I’m left with the wise words of Greta Gerwig and the Barbie writing team: “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they have come.”
I, like I’m sure many of us, left the movie theater reexamining my relationship with my mother and how hard I am on her for not understanding me and our ever-evolving generation. But that line made me pause. I recognize and thank my mother for the sacrifices she’s already made in a male-dominated world. Turns out our generational divide was nothing a little popcorn and reflection couldn’t fix.
This fight is one of generations in the making. On this day we celebrate all the women and girls who have chosen or are choosing to be a part of a new way forward.
Happy Women’s Equality Day.